Condonation of Delay By: Rachita Mathur

Condonation of delay is a doctrine given under limitation Act, 1963. This doctrine is an exception to the limitation period. According to this, if the aggrieved party can furnish “sufficient cause” for causing a delay in institution of suit leading to the expiry of the limitation period, the Court can, with discretionary jurisdiction disregard the delay or “condone the delay” and proceed with the case. The term Condonation means that the offence of ignoring the law of period as prescribed by the Act and is impliedly disregarded the matter shall process as if no offence has been committed. As per section 5 of the Act any appeal or application may be admitted after the prescribed period if the applicant/appellant is able to satisfy the Court that they had “sufficient cause” for not instituting the appeal/application in the prescribed period. According to section 2(j) of the Act, the period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by the Schedule. Here the prescribed period means the period of limitation computed in accordance with the provisions of this Act. As per schedule (1) period is prescribed as follows:

  • 3 years time-period for a suit relating to accounts, contracts, suits relating to movable property, recovery of a lawsuit under a contract, etc. 
  • 12 years time-period for suits relating to possession of the immovable property, and 30 years time-period for suits relating to the mortgaged property.
  • One year for suit relating to torts (3 years for compensation in certain cases). 30 to 90 days in case of appeals under the Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code.

The Court has discretionary jurisdiction and even though sufficient cause has been shown, the party is not entitled to the Condonation of delay as the same is left to the Court’s discretion.

There are certain exceptions of this doctrine:

  1. The doctrine is applicable to Criminal Proceedings only.
  2. The doctrine does not include “suit” and only covers appeals and applications.
  3. Other than an application under any of the provisions of order 21 of cpc. The doctrine covers all appeals and applications.

Rule 3A has been inserted by amendment Act, 1976. According to it, an application must be filed in case an appeal is presented after the expiry of the prescribed period. The application has to state sufficient cause for causing a delay in filing an appeal. This rule was recommended by the Privy Council. The practice of admitting such appeal subject to an opinion regarding limitation was disapproved by privy – council, and it stressed the need of adopting a procedure for settling the final determination of the question as to limitation before admission of appeal.

The Supreme Court, in the case of collector land acquisition v. Mst. Katiji has prescribed certain principles while administering the doctrine of Condonation of delay:

  • Ordinarily, the litigant doesn’t stand to benefit by instituting an appeal late.
  • If the Court is refusing to condone the delay, it can result in a meritorious matter being discarded and the roots of justice being defeated. However, when a delay is condoned, the highest that can happen is that the case will be decided on merits, i.e. a decision based on evidence rather than on the technical and procedural ground.
  • Every day’s delay must be explained” does not mean the doctrine is to be applied in an irrational manner. It must be applied in a sensible manner and not a literal one.
  • Between substantial justice and technical considerations, the former deserves to be preferred for the other side cannot claim that injustice is done because of a bona fide delay.
  • There is no presumption that delay is caused deliberately. The litigant has nothing to gain by resorting to delay and runs a serious risk.

Grounds where Condonation of delay can be granted:

  • Where there is subsequent change of law.
  • Illness of the party: It includes the nature and severity of disease and facts encompassing the failure to act.
  • Imprisonment of the party: However, mere detainment is not sufficient to cause. Varies on from case to case.
  • Party is a pardanashin woman.
  • Party belongs to a minority group with insufficient funds.
  • Poverty or illiterate party.
  • Party is a government servant: A government servant may not have an incentive in fulfilling the task. Therefore, certain latitude is permissible in such a case.
  • Delay due to the pendency of the writ petition.
  • Other adequate grounds: Mistake of Court, Mistake of Counsel, Delay in getting copies, mislead by rulings, etc.

Case Laws:

State (NCT of Delhi) v. Ahmed Jaan

In this case it was held that what counts is not the length of the day but the sufficiency of a cause that is the Court should follow a pragmatic and rational approach in explaining every single day’s delay. The delay was condoned and appeal thereby dismissed

Balakrishnan v. M.A.  krishnamurty

By this judgment the need for a “rule of limitation” was justified. Rule of limitation hasn’t been incorporated to destroy the right of parties, but to ensure that the parties don’t resort to dilatory tactics and seek their remedy promptly. The Law of limitation fixes a life span for such legal remedy. Unending lifespan would’ve led to unending uncertainty. The Court held that the law of limitation is thus founded on public policy.



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